Technical problems marred much of Tuesday’s GiveBIG event, one of the Seattle area’s biggest annual collective charitable-giving days. Due to the troubles, officials announced the campaign would be extended for one more day.
Technical problems with online donations marred much of Tuesday’s GiveBIG event — one of the Seattle area’s biggest annual collective charitable-giving days — raising concerns that some 1,500 participating charities may have lost tens of thousands of dollars in donations they rely upon to provide services.
Due to the problems that donors had with making contributions through GiveBIG’s main donations webpage, the chief executive of the Seattle Foundation, which runs the event, announced GiveBIG would be extended through Wednesday.
“The important thing for us in terms of supporting these nonprofits is we’re going to do whatever it takes to fix this for them,” Seattle Foundation CEO Tony Mestres said Tuesday afternoon.
The problems trace to an online donations payment platform hosted by Kimbia, the technology partner for the Seattle Foundation and dozens of other community foundations hosting similar annual charitable-giving events nationwide Tuesday as part of what’s known as “Give Local America!” Day.
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Events in Sacramento, Calif.; Nashville, Tenn.; Pittsburgh, and at least six other cities experienced similar problems, according to media reports. The Seattle Times is a sponsor of the GiveBIG event in this city.
“I’m very concerned,” said Anna Gottlieb, executive director of Cancer Pathways, a charity formerly known as Gilda’s Club that supports cancer survivors. “We’ve had a lot of calls from people who are just so frustrated, they’re giving up.”
Some donors finally managed to make donations, only to learn they’d been overcharged.
Annual donor Liz Heidner said Tuesday she checked her credit-card statement after receiving no confirmation from the GiveBIG site about whether her intended contributions to three Seattle charities had successfully gone through. The statement told her she’d been charged nearly double what she wanted to give.
“I’ve given for the last four or five years,” said Heidner, a 29-year-old Seattle tech designer. “This is like a disaster I’ve never experienced before.”
The Seattle Foundation “has been really great about trying to get this resolved,” Heidner added. “It’s really not their fault.”
As the problems persisted Tuesday, Gottlieb and other charity officials said they contacted donors to apologize, directing them to their own websites for donations.
But bypassing donations through the foundation, some worried their nonprofits would miss out on “stretch” contributions — bonuses the foundation kicks in later to participating charities.
“A lot of nonprofits count on this day as a way to really boost their fundraising,” said Carrie McBride, development director for the Crisis Clinic, which provides crisis intervention and referral services in Seattle and King County. “I know we’re definitely seeing a decrease to our giving today over our prior years.”
Mestres said late Tuesday the foundation will seek to address the “stretch” contributions issue. Exactly what went wrong with Kimbia’s payment platform wasn’t clear as of late Tuesday, he added.
Though some issues had been fixed by Tuesday evening, the site remained sluggish.
As of 5:30 p.m., the website reported more than $6.6 million in donations had been made through more than 29,000 gifts. This year’s goal was $20 million.
Since Seattle Foundation started GiveBIG six years ago, the annual day of giving has raised $56 million for Seattle area nonprofits involved in a range of community needs and causes. Last year, GiveBIG took in $16.3 million.
Donations raised during the event can also draw big matching contributions for some groups, making GiveBIG fundraising more important than other fundraisers.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos promised to match up to $1 million in donations raised Tuesday for the homeless women’s charity Mary’s Place.
Earlier Tuesday, Darrell Bulmer, communications director for Hopelink, a charity that serves low-income and homeless people and those with disabilities, said his nonprofit invested about $10,000 in marketing for the GiveBIG event, with a goal of raising about $300,000.
“Our entire campaign that we’ve been planning for months basically changed on its head today,” Bulmer said. “I don’t think we’re going to meet our goal now, and I’m sure many other nonprofits are in the same boat.”
Information in this article, originally published May 3, 2016, was corrected May 4, 2016. A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Darrell Bulmer, communications director for Hopelink.